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1AA3_Illness and Death.docx

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Antonio Sorge

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Illness and DeathMedical anthropology is one of the most rapidly growing areas of research in anthropologyEthnomedicineEthnomedicine the study of crosscultural health systems has been a focus of researchThe health system encompasses many areas perceptions and classifications of health problems prevention measures diagnosis healing magical religious scientific healing substances and healersIn the 1960s when the term Ethnomedicine first came into use it referred only to nonWestern health systems and synonymous with the now abandoned term primitive medicine Contemporary Western biomedicine WBM a healing approach based on modern Western science that emphasizes technology in diagnosing and treating health problems related to the human body is an ethnomedical system too Defining and Classifying Health ProblemsOne set of concepts that medical anthropologists use to sort out the many crosscultural labels and perception is the diseaseillness dichotomyIn this model disease refers to a biological health problem that is objective and universal such as bacterial or viral infection or a broken armIllnessrefers to culturally specific perception and experiences of a health problem A first step in ethnomedical research is to learn how people label categorize and classifying health problems cause vector the means of transmission such as mosquitoes affected body part symptoms or combinations of theseOften knowledgeable elders are the keepers of ethnomedical knowledge and they pass it down through oral traditions o These stories convey messages about how to prevent health problems avoid bodily harm relieve afflictions and deal with old age A classic study among the Subanun people focused on their categories of health problems In the 1950s the Subanun were horticulturalists living in the highlands of Mindanao in the PhilippinesAll Subanun even young children had substantial knowledge about health problems Skin diseases are common afflictions among the Subanun and have several degrees of specificityWestern medical manuals are biased toward diseases that Western biomedicine recognizes and they ignore health problems that other cultures recognize A culturespecific syndrome is a health problem with a set of symptoms associated with a particular cultureo Social factors such as stress fear or shock often are the underlying causes Biophysical symptoms may be involved and culturespecific syndromes can be fatal Somatization or embodiment refers to the process through which the body absorbs social stress and manifests symptoms of sufferingo Sutso frightshock disease is found in Spain and Portugal and among Latino people wherever they live People afflicted with susto attribute it to events such as losing a loved one or having a terrible accident Medical anthropologists first studied culturespecific syndromes in nonWestern cultures This focus created a bias in thinking that they exist only in other cultures Now Anthropologists recognize that Western cultures also have culturespecific syndromeso Anorexia nervosa and a related condition bulimia are culturebound syndromes found mainly among White middle class adolescent girls of the US although some cases have been documented among African American girls in the US and among malesEthnoEtiologiesPeople in all cultures everywhere attempt to make sense of health problems and try to understand their cause or etiologyEthnoetiology refers to a crossculturally specific casual explanation for health problems and sufferingo In Feira de Santana ethnoetiologies can be natural exposure to the environment socioeconomic psychological or supernaturalo Other natural explanations for illness take into account the effects of aging heredity personality and gendero In the psychological domain emotions such as anger and hostility cause certain health problems o In the supernatural problems spirits and magic can cause health problemsIllness and DeathThe AfricanBrazilian religions of the Bahia region encompass many spirits of the unhappy dead and devillike spirits Some spirits cause specific illnesses others bring general misfortuneMedical anthropologists use the term structural suffering or social suffering to refer to health problems caused by powerful forces such as poverty war famine and forced migrationHealing Ways Community HealingPrivate healing addresses bodily ailments in social isolation whereas the community healing encompasses the social context as crucial to healing Many nonWestern systems use community healingo Juhoansi healing emphasizes the mobilization of community energy as a key element Peoples solidarity and group session may support mental and physical health acting as a health protection systemHumoral Healing Humoral healing is based on a philosophy of balance among certain elements within the persons environment In this system food and drugs have different effects on the body and are classified as either heating or cooling The properties and meanings of heat and coolness differ from their counterparts in Islamic Indian and Chinese humoralism in several ways In the Islamic Indian and Chinese system death is the result of too much coolness Among the Orang Asli excessive heat is the primary cause of morality In their view heat emanates from the sun and is associated with excrement blood misfortune disease and deathHealersIn all cultures some people become recognized as having special abilities to diagnose and treat health problems In different cultures specialists include midwives bonesetters those who have reset broken bones shamans or shamankas male of female healers respectively who mediate between humans and the spirit world herbalists general practitioners psychiatrists nurses acupuncturists chiropractors dentists and hospice care providers Some healing roles may have higher status and more power and may receive higher pay than others The promotion of hospital births has destroyed the positive elements of communitybased midwifery and its provision of social support and techniques such as massage for the mothertobeHealing SubstancePhytotherapy is healing through the use of plantso Cross culturally people know about and use many different plants for a wide range of health problems including gastrointestinal disorders skin problems wounds and sores pain relief infertility fatigue altitude and more Increasing awareness of the range of potentially useful plants worldwide provides a strong incentive for protecting the worlds cultural diversity because it is people especially indigenous people who know about botanical resourcesCoca is important in rituals in masking hunger pains and in combating the coldIn terms of health Andean people use coca to treat gastrointestinal problems sprains swellings and colds Minerals are also widely used for prevention and healing o Many people worldwide believe that bathing in water that contains high levels of sulphur or other minerals promotes health and cures ailments such as arthritis and rheumatism Pharmaceutical medicines are increasingly popular worldwide Although these medicines have many benefits negative effects include overprescription and frequent use without a prescriptiono The popularity and overuse of capsules and injections has led to a growing health crisis related to the emergence of drugresistant disease strainsThree Theoretical ApproachesThe first major theoretical approach to understanding health systems emphasizes the importance of the environment in shaping health problems and how they spreadThe second highlights symbols and meaning in peoples expression of suffering and healing practises
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